Umotong: How I Bagged Hat-tricks On The Pitch And First Class Off It

Super Falcons of Nigeria striker Ini-Abasi Umotong has expressed enthusiasm about starting the new phase of her life where football will no longer compete with education for her attention.

The former Portsmouth FC and Oxford United star, last month, graduated with First Class Honours in Economics from the University of Southampton. Soon after, her move to Brighton and Hove Albion was announced, and one cannot help but marvel at how she was able to effectively manage her time in such a thoroughly demanding circumstance to achieve great results on and off the pitch.

“From the beginning of my degree I always wanted to play football as well, and my parents did stress their concern of me doing so as they wanted my studies to be the main priority.” Umotong told “I understood their concern and I agreed that ultimately my studies would take priority, but I knew it was also possible to do well in both and there were other generations who have done so such as Eniola Aluko. And so my thinking was if they can do it then so can I.

“My first year at the university I was playing at Portsmouth which is about 30 minutes’ drive from my university and when I had great success at the club and finishing my first year with a First Class also, I said to myself ‘okay I can push myself further’. So during my second year I moved to Oxford who were at the time the closest Super League team to my university and they were about an hour and 15 minutes’ drive away from Southampton. This is where the real challenge began.”

The 23-year-old was juggling being a football star as well as a full-time student and while she held on strongly to the belief that she could succeed in both, she had to make a lot of sacrifices too. She travelled to Oxford four times a week – a round trip of about three hours, was doing various work experience for her course and still spared some time for friends and family.

“It wasn’t easy,” she admitted. “But with the right will power and determination, hard work and, of course, God it was definitely possible.

“I had to learn to really effectively multi-task including like studying on the way home from away games. It was a lot of late nights and early mornings especially during my exam periods where I get to the library for around 10 am in the morning. I wouldn’t leave until about 4,5am in the (next) morning, then I go home, sleep for a little bit, wake up and do the exact same thing for the next day,” she narrated.

Umotong then hailed her family and friends whose “great network of support” alongside the great facilities and support from her university, saw her through her “very demanding” course.

Particularly she mentioned that: “I had a close knit group of friends on my course who joined me during the late nights at the library, and having that study group made a massive difference as I never felt alone but all in all I’m just over the moon to have come out with a First Class and now I can concentrate solely on football and see where this takes me.”

Umotong garnered over 50 goals whilst playing for Portsmouth FC, and last season she received two awards as a player of Oxford United; the Golden Boot in FA Women’s Premier League 2 as top scorer and the league’s Players’ Player of the season.

Now that all her attention is fixed on her football career, will be defending the colours of Brighton and Hove Albion in the new FA WSL2 season, while she is also looking forward to earning more caps for the Nigeria Women’s National Team.


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